AT&T Gives You The Runaround Over Your Military Discount

Reader Richard is in the Air Force. When he signed up with AT&T in January 2007 he was offered a military discount. Now it’s more than a year later and he’s still getting the runaround over this discount.

Now he’s launched an EECB on AT&T and has CC’d us so we can listen in.

Mr. Stephenson,

I am having a problem getting a customer service issue resolved. I feel that I have exhausted all means of escalation through normal call center and customer service representative channels. Please understand that I know you are busy, but I feel I have been wronged by your company.

January 5 2007 I graduated Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The 6th of January is when I signed my contract with Cingular (now AT&T) with the promise of a 19% military discount. I had never started my own cell phone service before so I figured that the representative at the store would set everything up for me.

I was wrong. The associate told me that it would take 2-3 billing cycles to apply and would be retroactive until January when the account was activated. I called AT&T customer service in March and asked why the discount had not been applied to my account. The representative said that there was no mention of the discount anywhere in my profile. I asked what measures would need to be taken on my part to get the discount applied. He said I would need to supply him with a Foundation Account Number (FAN) and he could apply the discount back to January and credit me the difference. I went to the Air Force admin people and they said they had never heard of a FAN nor could they supply me with one. I called again and was told that in the event that a FAN could not be provided I would need an active military e-mail address that ended in .mil. I informed the CSR that I was in technical training until August and would not have an e-mail account set up until September. He told me that whenever I got the account set up I could call back and get the discount set up to be retroactive until January. I thanked the CSR and ended the conversation as a very happy customer.

In September I arrived at my next duty station and got my e-mail set up, I called again. They sent an email to my .mil account. I followed the links in the e-mail and was under the impression that the discount would be applied.

I called again in November and asked why the discount had still not been applied. The CSR said there was no record of a military discount applied but would be happy to resend the e-mail and set up the discount. I asked if it would be retroactive until January and she said that the discount can only go back three months. I calmly asked to speak to a supervisor. I was not angry with that particular CSR because, as far as she and I were concerned, she did her job. After waiting on hold for exactly 8 minutes and 44 seconds( I timed it), I was connected with a supervisor. I calmly explained my situation and asked for the discount to be applied from January to the current billing cycle.

She said two things:

1.) There was no mention of a military discount on my profile at all until now, and 2.) the discount could only be applied a maximum of three months at the supervisor’s discretion.

I was appalled and outraged. I offered to forward her the email I had received in September and she said she would investigate the account further. After holding for another 9 minutes and 8 seconds( again I timed it), she reappeared. She said that there was only a mention of the discount in March and later in September and that there was no mention of making it retroactive until January. I told her that previous representatives happily told me that there would be no problem applying the discount until January to which she replied that they may have been lying. I asked if it could be applied since March since that was the first time it had been mentioned in their notes. She again said no, it could only go back three months, if the supervisor deemed it appropriate. I later sent e-mails to customer service asking for the same thing and was denied yet again.

Sir, all that I am asking for is for the discount to be applied to my account and made retroactive to the time te account was established. Due to either the ineptitude (or laziness, it is hard to be sure) of the employee who set up my account last year, I have paid at least $200 in the course of a year than I was originally lead to believe. As I understand the account extension that I signed in the middle of this month, I have thirty days to cancel. If this issue is unable to be resolved, then I regret to say that I will be forced to take my business to a company that appreciates both my service to our country as well as my patronage. I will take with me my wife’s account and my mother’s account. This will result in a loss of at least $240 for just one months service.

Please feel free to E-mail or call me with any resolution to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.


Yikes. Any other members of the military out there getting this sort of runaround from AT&T?



Edit Your Comment

  1. Toof_75_75 says:

    I sure hope there aren’t any others…WTF AT&T, you’re denying the people who are giving you the ability to still be a terrible company to deal with…the least you can do is respect that and give him what he needs.

  2. Nighthawke says:

    I could drive up to San Antonio and kick the door to the CEO’s office in. They are only a couple of hours away from here in Corpus Christi. The morons sure have let the infrastructure here in Texas go to pot. And I don’t mean the herb either! I’m talking FUBARed (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition) trunking, lack of capacity for expanding communities and a lack of incentive to complete DSL rollouts to communities for the sake of short term PROFITS.

  3. Sam2k says:

    First, when you signed up for the plan the rep could have just looked up the FAN and applied it.

    Secondly, ATT reps have to document everything so there should be sufficient documentation to prove that you have been trying to get this accomplished.

  4. forever_knight says:

    you should take advantage of one of their frequent contract changes and get far away from Cingular/AT&T.

    don’t pay them for continuing to screw you over. move on to better pastures.

  5. MDSasquatch says:

    I retired from Lackland almost two years ago, so I understand this chaps problem. AT&T is almost predatory; most of the graduates don’t have transportation and resort to the Base Exchange upon graduation to spend some of their hard earned cash. What does every young man or woman want? A cell phone of course and AT&T is happy to oblige because they are in the perfect place to get the business.

    Here is what the young man needs to do: pass this letter onto the AAFES manager at Lackland, then follow up with a phone call. Let the Wing Commander know as well(use the commander’s action line) and make sure AT&T knows he has done it. The last thing they want is to have their little empire at the BX threatened. AT&T is there under contract, if they start screwing the trainees, they wont have a contract for long and they know it!

    I can also attest that this might seem like an insignificant amount of money to some, but to a young airman, it can mean the difference between spaghetti and a night out with his wife. I thank him for his service and hope he gets it settled soon.

    IMHO, go with Verizon Wireless, I get a 15% discount for being a federal employee and my wife gets a discount for being a teacher. I have 5 lines with them, pay $120 a month and have never spent a dime on a new phone in over 5 years.

  6. sleze69 says:

    @forever_knight: Where should he go? Is Tmobile, Verizon, or Sprint any better?

  7. matsayz says:

    as a fellow airman and att customer i feelz your pain. i got the same run around when i signed up with them, cept i grabbed my roommates FAN# who is also Air Force and told the CSR that i have the correct FAN# and i know it works. the doofus tried to tell me that i should write into the Air Force and ask for the correct FAN#. are you kidding me? i know how long it takes for me just to get my medical records im not going to ask for a discount code!!!

    good job on the escalation! i love Consumerist, them and Giz are my daily sites. great info from both!

    Richard, look me up in the Portal White Pages and i will forward you the FAN# so you can AT LEAST get the next month or however long you decide to stay with these chumps.

    A1C Matthew S Wilson
    Davis-Monthan AFB
    DSN 228-3440

  8. trecool95 says:

    I signed up with Cingular online and got the AF discount. They verify it with you .mil e-mail account.

  9. matsayz says:

    @sleze69: i think it all just depends on what you want from the provider. i was with Nextel, then to Sprint after the takeover and currently with att. all with just about the same discount. just depends, theres no one better provider i dont think for military members. not until USAA becomes a wireless provider! sign me up for that!

  10. BlondeGrlz says:

    I have ATT and no one ever mentioned a military discount until last month when we went into a physical ATT store to get a new phone. I’ve mentioned my husband’s active duty status to ATT many times (once to have international calling enabled, once to have service suspended while deployed) and they never offered the discount – not that I’m surprised, just pissed I never asked. It’s supposed to be applied any day now, hopefully I don’t have these issues. Oh, and all they made us do is show ID.

  11. shan6 says:

    @matsayz: USAA would be a dream. Even though they are offering the most expensive car insurance rates I have ever seen.

  12. forever_knight says:

    @sleze69: uh, yes. a company OTHER than the current company that is either incompetent or just lying to him.

    it’s frustrating to hear you basically advocate doing nothing because all the companies are the same.

  13. m4ximusprim3 says:

    The really sad part of this is that, from a customer perception point of view, you’re DENYING A DISCOUNT TO AN ACTIVE MILITARY MEMBER!

    I don’t care what the policy says, once it escalates to a tier 2 or 3 manager, you need to give him what he wants (within reason, of course). You’re creating a PR nightmare you can’t win in a million years.

    That, and he’s ensuring your freedom. Bitches.

  14. ciaright says:

    As a member of the Navy, I went through this same hassle. I spent a month trying to get a FAN# from my chain of command. No one had ever heard of it. Finally I Google searched “FAN# US Navy” and found a number on a forum. I gave them that number and have been enjoying a 19% discount since. I must say I agree that the amount of work required to deal with this is excessive. Every other business I shop with that offers a military discount only requires I show my ID. My discount was not applied retroactively, but since it was only a month I wasn’t bothered. Good luck in your EECB.

  15. trishasaur says:

    When my husband joined the military about a year ago, I found out that AT&T offered military discounts. When I visited the local sales branch to set it up, the sales person told me that my source of information was mistaken and they never had (and never would) offer a military discount.

    I considered fighting him, but after reading this, I’m glad I didn’t bother.

  16. matsayz says:

    @shan6: ya know USAA used to give me expensive rates too, then FINALLY my points dropped off my record and now they’re $20 cheaper than my Gieco rate. i just switched banking to USAA(what a dream is right), wallet was stolen a few weeks ago, they were amazing! Bank of America tho not so much, spent 20mins on phone with BoA, USAA less than 3mins and they had me set(no waiting time either!!)

  17. Buran says:

    @Toof_75_75: This has NOTHING to do with what his job is. It has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that he should be getting an employee discount. He is no more, or less, entitled to that discount than I am as an employee of a university that has a contract for a 23% FAN discount with AT&T.

    That said, it’s strange that he doesn’t have the URL to the organization’s custom AT&T Premier store, which is where I signed up and also where I filled out a form requesting a discount — they do the research and apply the discount to you.

    He, and anyone else who is trying to get a FAN discount, should find out who is responsible for purchasing, etc., and get that link and/or FAN number. Whoever told him that there isn’t one doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

  18. VA_White says:

    MATSAYZ – we are at DM, too. Small world. :)

    We have Sprint and they applied our MIL discount without any problems. Hope the contributor gets this fixed soon.

  19. cbear says:

    Man, I wish I could defend the reps involved here, but anyone who works with business accounts that have FANs should know all 3 military FANs by heart, there are extremely common. Also, discount verification can be done online, in a store, or thru fax. This is really quite ridiculous on the part of the reps and managers.

  20. matsayz says:

    @VA_White: ha where do you work at? i’m a 2SO over at base supply. wow small world!

  21. ? graffiksguru says:

    Thats weird, I’ve been getting my 19% discount for awhile, all I had to do was dig through their wireless website (took a little while), when I found it, all I had to do was enter my .mil email address. It sent me a link, I confirmed it, and 2-3 billing cycles later I got it, and still have it. It doesn’t apply to the iphone plan though, so thats one of the reasons I never got it. I was wondering if I bought it and unlocked it though and just swapped out my sim card if it would work and still get the discount, but never got around to trying it.

  22. ? graffiksguru says:

    I think this is the link:

  23. Ourobolus says:

    I’m in the AF, and I’ve been getting the discount for a bit. Same as Tbartley, I just had to input my .mil address. I’m not really sure where the problem is for this guy, but hopefully he gets it worked out.

  24. I am a civil servant with the federal government. I get a discount from T-Mobile. All cell phone operators offer a discount, some better than others. TMob gave me my discount on both phones, retroactive to my first day of work. No wonder they win the award.

  25. theblackdog says:

    @matsayz: If USAA offered wireless, I’d gladly pay the $100 bucks (I’m in the middle of my contract) or so to break Verizon.

  26. justalittlemore says:

    Howdy all. I’m active military as well… I tried talking to AT&T to get the discount, but the lady asked me to provide the foundation number before she could apply it. I’d appreciate it if you could pass along the FAN # to me as well… I can verify with my .mil address as well. Thanks.

  27. BK88 says:

    @shan6: What crack are you smoking? My rates
    are at least $200 less than any other provider. However, if you are in
    the military or separated/retired you do not get the best rates. They
    go up with the first generation of kids and again with the second
    generation. I combined my fiance’s insurance with mine, she was a
    second generation child member (though not a child any more :) and it
    saved her $150 every 6 months!


  28. Sempera says:

    I’m in the Navy and when I walked into the store to sign up for my AT&T contract the lady their supplied us with the FAN number (actually it’s for the Marines, but I still get the discount so no matter) then called in to make sure that we wouldn’t have to pay the activation fees and everything. After the first billing cycle she gave me a call to make sure that everything came out right on my bill too. I think the person you talked to is just stupid, cause she told us that it’s easy for them to take care of military discounts in the store and that she’s never seen a big problem with that. I know San Diego is a big military town which might account for my saleswoman being so informed, but what he was told just sounds weird.

  29. taka2k7 says:

    a bit late to help, but Air Force personnel can get an extra .mil account at

  30. Tonguetied says:

    @shan6: I am saving a lot of money using USAA.

  31. TXchainsaw says:

    Cingular’s military discount is a joke .. actually it’s not a discount at all.. they put you on a business plan. which is suppose to be cheaper but uyou dont get near twice the bennies that others do. 50 messages a month?.. please my wife gets that in a week from NCOS and the like.
    need less to say.. in may when my contract is up i plan on going with another carrier. ( not just because of this issue).

  32. matsayz says:

    @justalittlemore: hey check your “messages”

  33. shiznannigan says:

    It’s not a military discount, per se, but part of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 for Government employees (Past and Present).

    It varies among cellular companies, but is usually between 15 and 22 percent. I’ve heard it also applies to land line telephones, but I’m not sure about anything else (internet?)

  34. webdoyenne says:

    Picked this up at

    · Sprint offers a 15% military discount. Update: call 1-888-703-9514 and you must reference AAFES code #0109565715. Call and you will get the discount with no problems and no additional service commitment!

    · Cingular offers a 19% military discount. Call 1-800-319-6393. Update: for Cingular’s discounts to take effect, you will need to sign up for at least a 1-year service agreement. With a .mil email address, you can sign up for the discount at their website.
    To apply, it is done totally online. Go to [] You must enter your existing number and your WORK (.mil) email address. It will send you an email that gives the instructions and a link for validating that you qualify.
    For new customers the POC number is: 1-800-356-9752
    For current customers and for the accessories: 1-888-290-1338
    Foundation code numbers on the Cingular Discount:
    US AIRFORCE 32497

    COAST GUARD 36776

    MARINES 32438

    NAVY 32437

    ARMY 33645

    · T-Mobile Call 1-866-646-4688. No additional contract required. Their military discounts are: Activation Fee: Waived, Voice rate plans: 9.3%, Data Standalone plans: 3.3%, Add on features: 5.3%, Blackberry Plans: 3.3%, Equipment: $20 off, Overages: 11.3%, Long Distance: 11.3%, International Long Distance: 11.3%

    · Nextel offers an 18% military discount. Call 1-866-456-7892. No additional contract required.

    · Verizon customer service number is 1-800-511-1150 and is open 8am-9pm M-F – the military discount is 15%. Download the online form. No additional contract required.


    Now…I work for the Air Force and I have AllTel. Have seen nothing about mil discounts from them. Customer service person I spoke with was clueless. Anybody here know anything?

  35. peetahvw says:

    This is great, two stories on corp/military discounts for mobile providers in one day. I feel sorry for this guy, at least AT&T didn’t dump him to the “concerned department” like Sprint does. Anyways just to echo WEBDOYENNE these discounts are plentiful and you might qualify without having to even speak to a human being if you do it on the web:





  36. lapseofjudgement says:

    well sorry to tell yall but its actually the militaries job to tell you you have that discount not at&t now i work for at&t and i willl tell you because i work with alot of DoD and military that know. but granted they are in the intelligence feild so maybe it has to do with that aboutthat but we ask you who you work for no matter what cuz if you spend less on minutes you willl buy more features so maybe its just you got bad reps cuz i know baltimore washington doesnt have that issue

  37. pierces83 says:

    I am in Mgmt with AT&T BEUC. Sometimes you get reps that aren’t the “brightest crayons in the box”. Hopefully if you have to call in again you will get someone on my team that knows what they are talking about and if they don’t, they know where to find the answers. We are always more than happy to let a customer off of the phone and give them a call back when we have their answer, and God help them if I find out they promised a customer they would call them back and didn’t. That is my pet peeve and I will call from home (blocking my number of course:) if I have to to ensure that customer got the follow up they were promised. I make sure that my agents don’t forget the old Cingular logo “Raising the Bar” and will not forget in the end it’s about customer service and making the customer’s happy.

  38. Buran says:

    @lapseofjudgement: What does who your customers work for have to do with your “we want to get your money no matter what” attitude?

  39. Bruce Bayliss says:

    Wow! A whole paragraph without any punctuation….
    Awesome, man!

  40. Caroofikus says:

    @Bruce Bayliss: It’s not his fault…that was the way they had it in the script.

  41. MisterE says:


    Here’s a thought: Why not make arrangements with Consumerist, Richard, AT&T and help this guy out instead of telling us how wonderful your section of AT&T is?

    I’m sure your taking this seriously.

  42. chewie82 says:

    I don’t know if the OP has tried or not. All I did was walk into a corporate store and showed them my Military ID. I asked for the military discount and that was it. Been going on over a year now.

  43. DomDem says:

    Are you in the military and still don’t have your discount? Go to your local at&t corporate store (not agent location, make sure!) with your military identification. Ask the associate to add your discount. If you do not have a badge a paystub will work.

    The associate CAN add the discount in the store but will still need to fax in the appropriate information to ensure it does not get removed. In the event that you deal with a lazy or incompetent or new (yes sometimes there are new employees who just don’t know) employee, the discount codes are the following:

    Air Force 19% 32497
    Army 19% 11064
    National Guard 19% 11064
    Navy 19% 32437
    Marines 19% 32438

    Take your code with you just in case. It adds validity. You do NOT need to have a .mil e-mail, you do NOT need to go online to verify. You need to be present in the store, your name MUST be on the account, and you must have proof of employment.

  44. military_guy says:

    I got the 19% discount after using .mil account. Then they took it off and i didn’t notice. Called and they put it back.(without covering the discount for the past few months I didnt notice) then they dropped it to 15%. Again, without me noticing. Now they say it is my fault because I didn’t use the correct FAN number. I didn’t use any fan number. I did it online. Then over the phone when they dropped. It’s a scam.
    Don’t mean to complain about a discount or lack of for they “guys/girls”, but if you are going to advertise that you do it, then you should honor it. If not, then it is just a marketing ploy..

  45. MARETH says:

    Just returned from my local ATT store for the third time. Already called billing x 2 without any satifaction. In March,08 signed agreement for senior plan with ATT and was advised in the store that I would get a 19% discount after producing my military ID. Eventually noticed a .95cent discount onthe 29.99 a monthy plan which was obviously incorrect. I get nothing but the runaround each time I call ATT billing or visit the store. They now say that the discount was changed to 15% as of June,08 but my plan does not qualify although I was told loud and clear in the store that it did and in fact their computer still shows a discount but now at 15% on my account.What or whom in the military can I contact to advise them of this deceitful practice. I am retired military. Margaret

  46. SarupraniChaffin says:

    When I was signing my first contract with AT&T, I asked them about the military discount (my friend told me they had one). AT&T told me I need to go to a local store and show them my ID for verification, fair enough. But then I found on their web site that I can verify with my .mil e-mail, which I did and now I have a 15% discount. I didn’t even know there was a FAN number, until I saw it on myAccount page.

    FYI, visit it lists all kinds of military discounts for various things, (notice how it lists the FAN# for various military branches)

  47. Anonymous says:

    We have T-Mobile. It took me about a year to get the discount. Turns out the account has to be IN the service members name, meaning my husband’s name and not mine. Also, the discount at TMobile actually is under a government employee listing and puts us in a special catagory that requires we jump through hoops to get anything accomplished. Let’s face it, none of these companies WANT to give the discount. I honestly believe they go to lengths to deter people from asking for and/or receiving the discount.

  48. Tashia says:

    Well, here it is 2010 and I’m getting the same run around that Richard got. I’ve submitted 2 different FAN numbers and was told both times that they are wrong. The 2nd time the FAN number was submitted, the store employee searched high and low to find this FAN number. To this day, I still don’t have the discount. I left T-Mobile, who I was happy to be with in the first place, just to go to AT&T to save some money. I haven’t had the phone for 30 days yet so I’m looking to switch someplace else if I can.

  49. Just_Jovonne says:

    So, it is now 2011 and I’m FUMING because I’m getting the same type of runaround. I was a very faithful Verizon Wireless customer, but due to my PCS to Colorado Springs, I had to go with the company who had better service in particular areas. So, I made the switch. When I first bought my phone and service, I showed the rep my military ID, a copy of my order, and a LES. She said she was applying the discount and I should see it in 2-3 billing cycles. I waited and I didn’t see anything. I called and spoke to someone and they claim they were fixing my account to show that it was a military account, but it would still take another couple of months to show the discount. The guy I spoke to sent the e-mail with the validation paperwork, I filled it out and sent it back. Still nothing. They have the wrong FAN # linked to my account and I’m barely seeing any type of discount. So, I called again today. The rep told me to go into the store with proof of military service. As with others that have shared their experiences, I too will only be credited for 3 months. This is bogus! AT&T is too expensive to have to deal with bad customer service! The I-phone isn’t that serious. I’ll happily go back to a Droid and service that is least expensive if I can transfer my number and go to sprint or Verizon.I’m so done with these folks! They have got to do better!